Former state legislator Laban Ray DeFriese died Wednesday at his home at Franklin, Tn., at the age of 79.
Born in Chattanooga, he was a 1952 graduate of Tyner High School where he was an all-county
athlete in three sports - baseball, basketball and football. He was also an accomplished soloist in the school and church choir. He was only in the eighth grade when he was chosen to perform solos at the annual high school Christmas show at Memorial auditorium.
Upon graduating from high school he joined the Army. A two-way football star on the Army European team, he played quarterback and safety to earn the football team its first championship in 1955.
When he returned from service, Mr. DeFriese graduated from UT and attended UT Law School. In the early 70’s he served in the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 1979, he and his wife, JoAnn Gamble DeFriese, created a successful business Continental Caviar. He quickly became known as America’s “Czar of Caviar”. Continental Caviar was featured on ABC News with Peter Jennings and for his success, he was only one of two Tennesseans ever featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
He was a member of First Presbyterian Church in Chattanooga.
Mr. DeFriese is survived by his wife, children, Jerry, Kenny and Sam DeFriese, all of Franklin, and Juli DeFriese, Chattanooga, and eight grandchildren, Moises, Victor, Braxton, Amanda, Allison, Gisella, Lupe and Grey.
Funeral services will be held Friday at 9 am in the Heritage Funeral Home chapel with Rev. Sam Payne officiating. Burial will follow in the Chattanooga National Cemetery with Eddie Turner, John Hill, Brent Gamble, Greg Privette, Lindy Henley and Jimmy Webb serving as pallbearers.
The family will receive friends Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road.